The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent

The Trustbusters Come for Big Tech

Episode 368 of the Cyberlaw Podcast


This episode offers an efficient overview of the six antitrust reform bills reported out of the House Judiciary Committee last week. Michael Weiner and Mark MacCarthy give us the top line for all six (though only four would make substantial new policy). We then turn quickly to the odd-couple alliances supporting and opposing the bills, including my brief cameo appearance as an exhibit in Rep. Jim Jordan's opposition to the bills, on the gratifying ground (ok, among others) that they gave Microsoft a free ride even though Microsoft had never explained its suppression of my recent LinkedIn posts. On the whole, I think Rep. Jordan is right; there's very little in these bills that will encourage the kind of competition that produces a diversity of political viewpoints on social media.

Nick Weaver trashes the FBI for its prosecution of Anming Hu. I'm more sympathetic to the investigators, but neither of us thinks this will end well for the Bureau or the Justice Department's China Initiative.

Adam Candeub makes his second appearance on the podcast and does a fine job unpacking three recent decisions on the scope of Section 230. The short version: Facebook only partly beat the rap for sex trafficking in the Texas Supreme Court; SnapChat got its head handed to it in the speed filter case; and all the Socials fended off charges of assisting terrorists (but only over persuasive dissents).

The long version: Silicon Valley has sold the courts a bill of goods on Section 230 for reasons that sounded good when the Internet was shiny and democratic and new. Now that disillusion has set in, the sweeping subsidy conferred by 230 and remarkably expanded by the courts is looking a lot less socially valuable. The wheels aren't coming off Section 230 yet, but the paint is peeling and the lugnuts are loose. Big Tech's failure to get their reading of the law blessed by the Supreme Court ten years ago is going to cost them sooner or later – mainly because their reading is inconsistent with good policy and basic rules of statutory interpretation.

Nick and I mull over the torture indictments of executives who sold internet wiretapping capabilities to the Qaddafi regime.

Mark is unable to hose down my rant over Canada's bone-stupid effort to impose Canadian content quotas on the internet and to saddle Canada with an online hate speech law of monumental vagueness.

Finally, in closing, Nick and I bid an appropriately raucous and conflicted adieu to the Hunter Thompson of Cybersecurity,  John McAfee.

And More!

Download the 368th Episode (mp3)

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